By Neal Rogers
Although he woke up in the middle of the night with a fever, Saxo Bank’s race leader Fabian Cancellara hoped to honor his Amgen Tour of California yellow jersey Sunday by pushing through his illness.
But the big Swiss champion couldn’t continue on the cold and wet day due to a potential strep throat infection, team spokesman Brian Nygaard told VeloNews following stage 1.
Just 12 hours after winning the race’s prologue, Cancellara woke up at 3 a.m. Sunday with a fever of 101 degrees, Nygaard said, adding, “It started as a sore throat, but I think it’s streptococcal (bacteria). He’s on antibiotics now. He wanted to start the stage, out of respect for the race and the jersey, but it was not in the cards with the state he was in this morning.”
Nygaard said Cancellara started feeling ill prior to the start of Saturday’s prologue in Sacramento, where he won his second consecutive California prologue, placing well ahead of second-placed finisher Levi Leipheimer.
“I think he could have done an even better time trial if he had been feeling better,” Nygaard said.
Cancellara made the decision to take the start, and also made the decision to abandon in the rain at the day’s feed zone at mile 42.
The reigning Olympic time trial champion told the press Saturday that he was again targeting April’s cobbled classics in hopes of taking a second Paris-Roubaix victory to match his 2006 win.
“If he could have finished today he would have,” Nygaard said. “But to jeopardize the whole classics season in these conditions, with a fever … it would have been stupid.”